3 Ways To Bring Business And IT Together

by drjim on June 3, 2009

Executing A Single Business / Technology Strategy Leads To Success

Executing A Single Business / Technology Strategy Leads To Success

In the end, it all comes down to execution. No, not chopping heads off, but rather how you go about having your IT department perform the tasks that the business needs them to do. How hard could this possibly be?

What’s The Goal?

The power term “alignment” is tossed around a lot these days. I think that it’s gotten used so much that a lot of us have forgotten just exactly what it means. In its simplest form, when a company is truly aligned then it is able to mange both its business and its technology together.

As simple as this may seem, too few companies are able to achieve this goal. The reasons are many: differing personalities, budgets that are unrelated, lack of accountability for business results, etc.

Fredric Fishman has spent some time  thinking about this and he’s come to the realization that in order for a a company to commit to managing both its business and its technology together, then it needs to do three things well:

  • Provide a clear vision for the organization
  • Create a well-defined roadmap that shows how to get to the future
  • Measure outcomes against predefined criteria

One Strategy For Both Business And Technology

If you have any hopes of bringing your business and technology activities together, then you’re going to have to make sure that the firm has a living business strategy. The world changes and your business strategy needs to be able to change with it. One way to accomplish this is to implement processes that will allow feedback on the business strategy to be collected and used to make adjustments.

The next step is to make sure that everyone understand just exactly how technology is going to be used to achieve each one of your business objectives. Finally, don’t just hope for the best – make sure that you have criteria in place to judge success before you start any IT project.

Strategic Imperative: Talk & Spend

A company’s goals are no good if nobody knows about them. Make sure that any planned investment in technology has a direct link to a business objective. This kind of decision making won’t happen overnight. You’re going to have to take the time to create internal processes that will allow your staff to learn how to make the correct investment decisions.

Once again, good communication is at the heart of any well run organization. You need to make sure that EVERYONE knows what the expected outcomes are and what the expected business results are. This will establish a sense of ownership and will make sure that everyone has “skin in the game”.

Measure, Measure, Measure

The best IT programs in the world don’t amount for much if you can’t determine what their impact was. You need to monitor the outcomes of each IT investment decision so that your decision making process just keeps getting better.

This is where IT folks can really shine: collect those metrics, stats, and usage data and use these numbers to measure impacts and report results.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the steps that we need to take to align technology and business are pretty straightforward. The challenge is that this calls out not for a technology solution, but rather for a human-to-human solution. Within IT we’re great at writing code and hooking up new systems, now we just have to do a better job of talking and communicating with the rest of the company.

Questions For You

Within your firm, do you feel that you have a clear vision or is it just a piece of paper on the wall? Do you know how the company is going to achieve its stated goals? Are there effective ways to measure your IT results in place today? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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Coming Up Next Time

HP’s CIO Randy Mott has done some fantastic things in helping to turn the company around. However, now things are starting to get tricky and it’s not clear that the company is going to be able to continue to be successful…

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura Brandau June 11, 2009 at 9:29 am

Hi Jim,

Thanks for the insightful article. I agree that the best tech teams are aligned with the business up and down the organization. To be successful this needs to come from the top in terms of a clear direction for the organization. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said:

“The challenge is that this calls out not for a technology solution, but rather for a human-to-human solution.”

The reality I’ve found is that within technology you can only do so much to bridge the communication gap. You can get better at achieving specific objectives, but you might be down the wrong road in terms of overall direction. If your executive team is not aligned or if the organization lacks a clear direction, it’s difficult to properly align any function (accounting, marketing, sales, or IT) with “the business”.

Laura
http://www.bridging-the-gap.com

Reply

Dr. Jim Anderson June 14, 2009 at 11:47 am

Laura: thanks for the comment – I agree with you! In my experience it’s that “top down” thing that always seems to get in the way of true alignment. Conflicts between sales & marketing & finance can derail the best of intentions. I personally believe that there is something to the idea of “pushing” IT out into the various business units in order to break down more barriers. However, buy-in from all parties is needed before you can do this…!

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